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The History and Evolution of the Ferrari 308 GT4

When Ferrari unveiled the 308 GT4 at the Paris Auto Show in 1973, it was a true revelation of change. This vehicle was a remarkable departure from anything that Ferrari had done before, especially considering that this particular model had been associated with rounded two-seaters, Pininfarina’s 246.

This GT4 had been designed by Bertone, and it featured stunning angles where once there were curves. This is one of many reasons why it became one of Ferrari’s most revolutionary models. As a matter of fact, this choice of design was controversial during that time. Pininfarina had been leading designs on Ferrari for years before the GT4, and Pininfarina was known to be Bertone’s biggest rival at the time. Ferrari chose the latter over the former for particular reasons.

The truth was Enzo Ferrari himself was central to design aspects of this vehicle. There was even a mock-up made of the car just so it can be personally tested by Ferrari. The different aspects tested included seat positioning, pedals, steering, and a few others. This must’ve been surely necessary, especially considering that any GT4 driver would've been only be able to see out the road ahead from the cockpit. During this time, Enzo Ferrari was impressed by Bertone’s work on Fiat’s Dino 2+2, which Bertone designed and built. Some of these Fiats were actually assembled at Ferrari's plant. According to an interview with Enzo’s only living son, this was mainly the reason Bertone got the job. Piero Ferrari also pointed out that his father didn't forget Pininfarina at all and had plans to give him the next project that would come.

Many critics were not keen to Bertone’s styling of the 308 GT4, but most criticism withered away as soon as the vehicle actually got tested. One person that got to try out this vehicle GT4 was Formula 1 champ Emerson Fittipaldi, who tried the GT4 out on Italy’s Quattroroute. Fittipaldi claimed that this vehicle was “one of the best GTs.”

This Ferrari GT4 was also revolutionary for Ferrari for another reason. This Dino 308 GT4 was Ferrari’s first production V8. It was also the company's first midengine 2+2. One driver who tested it, Le Mans winner Paul Frere, noted that “[the car] only has eight cylinders…but by any other standard it is a Ferrari.”

Although Ferrari did that to differentiate non-V12 Ferrari engines, people were unbeknownst to some facts and were therefore stricken with controversy over the entire production, Bertone's design situation, the badging situation, and possibly a few other things. People simply didn't know that this GT4 was simply Ferrari’s first step in a completely new direction. And this new direction will eventually be Ferrari’s biggest seller. As a matter of fact, around this time in 1975, the Dino 308 GT4 was Ferrari's only legal U.S. import.

There was another controversy that enveloped this car. When it first came out, the 308 GT4 wore a "Dino" badge instead of a Ferrari badge. This was radical in a sense, and Ferrari ended up rebranding in 1976 for 308’s to finally carry Ferrari's original “Prancing horse” branding. There was much confusion then among collectors, enthusiasts, and judges, and many refused to buy a Ferrari that didn’t carry its badge. People just refused to buy such an expensive vehicle if it didn’t carry Ferrari's famous insignia. Little did they know then the true significance of this “Dino” name. As it turns out, "Dino" was Enzo Ferrari’s son, who passed away in 1956. The Dino 308 GT4 was named on all those earlier models in honor of Ferrari’s late son’s memory.

The next model, Ferrari's 208 GT4, was introduced during 1975's Geneva Motor Show. This model was supposed to be a low-displacement version of regular V8s. In Italy, cars with engines larger than 2 liters were subjected to heavier taxes, double in fact. 2-liter V8s was Ferrari’s response to the country's growing fuel crisis and the incredibly high doubled VAT of 38%. Ferrari's 208 GT4 became the world's smallest production V8 in the history of road cars ever--another groundbreaking feat that Ferrari would have with this car.

In 1980, Ferrari went back to his original designer, Pininfarina, and released the 208 GTB to replace the 208 GT4. Only 840 208 GT4s were ever made.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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